The Promises Of Qualitative Inquiry

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American Psychologist


We address the significance and implications of the formal entry of qualitative inquiry into the American Psychological Association. In our view, the discipline is enriched in new and important ways. Most prominently, the qualitative movement brings with it a pluralist orientation to knowledge and to practices of inquiry. Adding to the traditional view of knowledge as empirically supported theory are research practices congenial with varying accounts of knowledge, including, for example, knowledge as hermeneutic understanding, social construction, and practice-based experience. Added to the goal of prediction are investments in increasing cultural understanding, challenging cultural conventions, and directly fostering social change. The qualitative movement also enriches the discipline as a whole through the special ways in which it inspires new ranges of theory, fosters minority inclusion, and invites interdisciplinary collaboration. Finally, the movement holds promise in terms of the discipline's contribution to society at large. Here we focus on the advantages of knowing with others in addition to about them, and on ways in which qualitative work enhances communication with the society and the world. Realizing these potentials will depend on developments in responsible research and reporting, academic and journal policies, along with the discipline's capacities for appreciating a more comprehensive orientation to inquiry.